DC -- Columbia Heights -- Tivoli Theater --> GALA Hispanic Theatre (3333 14th St NW):
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TIVOLI_220507_019.JPG: Saving the Tivoli:
Although the Tivoli was spared from the devastation that many buildings on 14th Street experienced during the 1968 riots, it suffered from neglect and threat of demolition for the next thirty years. The District's Redevelopment Land Agency purchased the Tivoli and the remaining block as a part of its urban renewal program. Plans to convert the building into a community center never materialized, and the theater and its retail shops closed in 1976,
In 1981, the neighborhood activists formed "Save the Tivoli, Inc." to protect the building from further neglect and possible demolition as well as to develop economically viable reuse strategies. In the mid 1980s, the Tivoli was designated both a local and national landmark, and attempts to demolish the building were blocked by the community preservationists. In 1998, the city issued a new request for development proposals, and the following year awarded Tivoli Partners, with Horning Brothers as General Partner, the rights to develop the entire block.
Collaboration with the City Offices of Planning, Economic Development, and Historic Preservation as well as community leaders, arts advocates, and historic preservation groups enabled Horning Brothers to achieve both goals of historic preservation and economic development. In 2003, Horning Brothers began a complete exterior restoration and interior renovation to accommodate neighborhood-oriented retain, offices, and a 270-seat performing arts house for GALA Hispanic Theatre. In December 2004, the lights on the Tivoli's magnificent marquee were switched on once again, signaling the landmark's grand reopening. The Tivoli's restoration and the construction of Tivoli Square, with supermarket and town homes, are key elements in the re-establishment of Columbia Heights as a vibrant hub of commerce, housing, and the arts.
TIVOLI_220507_025.JPG: Scene Changes, 1924-1926:
From it's dazzling opening day in 1924 until its closure and abandonment in 1976, the Tivoli mirrored dramatic economic and demographic changes in Columbia Heights over half a century. National trends in the entertainment industry and Supreme Court decisions would directly affect the Tivoli. And the people who designed, built, and patronized the movie palace created their own drama as fascinating as that which played out on the silver screen.
TIVOLI_220507_049.JPG: Movie Palace Moguls:
Harry Crandall, building of the Tivoli Theater, was "the man who brought movies to Washington," according to The Washington Star. An extraordinary entrepreneur, Crandall (1879-1937) rose from rags to riches by capitalizing on technological innovations in the film industry. A night operator for the fledgling telephone industry while in his teens, then owner of a livery business, Crandall realized automobiles would soon replace the horse and buggy. Foreseeing great financial opportunity in the movie business, he opened his first theater, the Casino, in 1907, spending $800 for improvements to open in an existing building at 4th and East Capital Streets, SE. At the height of his career, during the Roaring '20s, Crandall was far and away the city's biggest movie operator, owning twelve District-area theaters, including the Lincoln, Metropolitan, Knickerbocker, Savoy, and Tivoli.
Crandall's preferred theater designer was local architect Reginald Geare, who designed the Knickerbocker, Metropolitan, and Lincoln Theaters for the movie impresario. Geare's preparatory designs for the Tivoli were scrapped after the Knickerbocker's roof collapsed on movie patrons during the blizzard of 1922, and Crandall hired world-famous theater architect Thomas Lamb to design the Columbia Heights theater. Responding to the Knickerbocker tragedy, Lamb combined his signature style -- elegant exterior and sumptuous gold, crystal and marble interior -- with structural integrity provided by a durable steel frame and double-width brick walls. The Tivoli was the first neighborhood movie palace in Washington and was praised for having "downtown features at neighborhood prices and convenience."
TIVOLI_220507_065.JPG: The Temple of the Arts:
Opening Day -- Saturday, April 5, 1924:
As the 10 millionth Model T automobile rolled off the assembly line and the first around the world flight was completed, Harry Crandall opened his 2,500-seat movie palace in Columbia Heights. A savvy marketing and public relations impresario, Crandall published advertisements touting, "It can not be too strongly emphasized that the TIVOLI Theater is not in the usual sense a 'neighborhood house,' but a temple of the Arts expected to supply the entire District of Columbia the highest type of entertainment it can ever hope to enjoy." The Washington Post concurred and predicted that the Tivoli's influence on real estate values and business development in northwest Washington would be incalculable. Ticket sales for the Saturday evening, April 5th opening began on Thursday at 10:00am at the downtown box office of Crandall's Metropolitan Theater -- four tickets maximum, per person -- and by noon they were sold out.
The dedication program was stellar, with "Painted People" starring "flapper" Colleen Moore on screen and the wildly popular Fred Waring and his Pennsylvanians storming the stage. Also featured on the "bill de luxe" was the resident orchestra, a "ballet of symbolism," news reels, operatic arias, and a prelude on the $35,000 Wurlitzer organ. Theater patrons marveled at the Tivoli's sumptuous interior, whose richly appointed surfaces included marble, crystal, and gilt. A ceiling dome with intricate plasterwork dominated the immense auditorium, which had superior acoustics and an orchestra pit that was equipped with an elevator, said to be the first in the country.
The festivities were preceded by a two-mile long parade of cars, trucks, and floats that began near the White House and wound its way up 14th Street to the Tivoli. The spectacular opening prompted The Washington Post to print a full page, multi-story spread in its Sunday edition, calling the theater a true "Temple of the Arts." Harry Crandall was now the premier theater operator in the nation's capital.
TIVOLI_220507_083.JPG: The Most Pleasant Suburb:
The Tivoli site and its neighborhood during the 19th and early 20th centuries have a rich and varied history. Although the area that is now Columbia Heights lay outside Washington's original boundaries, this hilly area north of the city, with its pleasant breezes and cooler temperatures, was a popular retreat from the malaria-ridden summers of swampy Washington. 14th Street has long been a major thoroughfare leading north from the city, connecting Civil War fortifications and hospitals, later the village of Mount Pleasant, and finally the Columbia Heights community to L'Enfant's Washington. Horse-drawn, then electric trolleys had their northern terminus at 14th and Park Road until 1907, with that intersection becoming a hub for bustling commerce. Columbia Heights in the early 20th century was one of Washington's most desirable suburbs for commerce, recreation, and home, boasting several theaters, the Arcadia amusement house, and attractive residential subdivisions.
Over the years, the Tivoli property has played several roles, witnessing to the sick and wounded of nearby Mount Pleasant hospital during the Civil War, then hosting the Sacred Heart Church during the early 20th century. Diverging from its humanitarian and spiritual tales, it became an entertainment place during the Roaring '20s, beckoning to all who wished to throw care aside and revel in the sensual tableaux of the "Temple of the Arts."
One of a series of Civil War hospitals that ringed the hilly area north of Washington's original boundaries, Mount Pleasant Hospital was located near the intersection of Park Road and 14th Street. According to oral tradition, First Lady Mary Todd Lincoln was treated at the hospital by army surgeons after a carriage accident in July 1863.
TIVOLI_220507_103.JPG: David Lloyd Kreeger
TIVOLI_220507_104.JPG: Carmen Matanzo y Jaramillo
TIVOLI_220507_130.JPG: Art Walk
In memory of
Carmen Matanzo y Jaramillo
David Lloyd Kreeger
TIVOLI_220507_132.JPG: "Lilies of the Field", starring Sidney Poitier, 1963
In 1963, the Tivoli Theater ran the film "Lilies of the Field" to raise funds for several African-American organizations, including the NAACP, the Congress of Racial Equality, and the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee. 36-year-old Sidney Portier made a personal appearance at the theater during the show. The following year, Portier won for this film an Oscar for Best Actor and a Golden Globe award for Best Motion Picture Actor, the first African-American so honored. In 1965, Tivoli owner Warner Bros. sold the movie house to District Theaters, who operated it as a theater for African-Americans. Although it survived the riots of April 1968, District Theaters closed i in December 1976.
TIVOLI_220507_137.JPG: Tivoli Theater, April 9, 1968
An Evening Star photographer documented 14th Street in the wake of the riots that followed Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s tragic assassination on April 4th, 1968. 14th Street in Columbia Heights, the hardest it street in the city, was a scene of devastation after several days of sustained rioting. Most of its businesses were looted and vandalized, including Riggs Bank across the street from the Tivoli and the Savoy Theater, which burned just a few blocks south. This photograph shows the Tivoli with "Soul Brother" scrawled across its storefront windows, words that, witnessing to the African American-owned businesses located in the building, protected it from looters. The National Guard patrolled each block of upper 14th Street for weeks.
TIVOLI_220507_149.JPG: Conceptual rendering for the Tivoli Theater, 1922
Movie house magnate Harry Crandall hired New Yorker Thomas W. Lamb, the nation's most renowned and prolific theater architect of that era, to design a theater in the Columbia Heights neighborhood that would equal or surpass the grandeur of Washington's downtown theaters. Lamb's first design for the Italian Renaissance style building, shown in this photograph, met Crandall's expectations with its highly ornate exterior and numerous gilded arches, but not his budget. The conceptual drawing nevertheless shows the anticipated hustle and bustle around the theater, with a bevy of Model Ts and the 14th Street trolley tracks waiting to transport Washington's eager movie patrons.
TIVOLI_220507_154.JPG: Tivoli Theater ushers, April 5, 1924
TIVOLI_220507_159.JPG: Views of the Tivoli Theater Auditorium
Upper photograph, 1924.
Lower photograph, January, 2000.
An immense, central dome holding a magnificent chandelier dominated the Tivoli's 2,500-seat auditorium. THe $1,000,000 theater had the largest seating capacity in Washington when it was built, surely fulfilling movie impresario Harry Crandall's dream to own the most luxurious theater in the nation's capital. A photograph taken from a similar perspective in January 2000 offer a bleak contrast to the theater that was once called "The Temple of the Arts." Following the Tivoli's closing in 1976, the seats were removed and the large circular curtained baffle was lowered to the floor.
TIVOLI_220507_170.JPG: Promenade Views of the Projection Booth
Wikipedia Description: Tivoli Theatre (Washington)
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
The Tivoli Theatre is a landmark building in the Columbia Heights neighborhood of Washington, D.C. on 14th Street and Park Road Northwest. Originally built as a movie theater, it currently (as of 2006) exhibits live stage productions as the home of the GALA Hispanic Theatre.
The Tivoli Theatre was designed by prominent New York architect Thomas W. Lamb. It reflects Italian Renaissance Revival style architecture with its stucco exterior, red tile roof, ornate cornices, and numerous graceful arches. Completed in 1924 at a cost of $1 million, the theater was, until its closing in 1976, one of the most elegant movie houses in Washington, D.C. In addition to the main theater auditorium, the building contained offices on the upper floors and several two-story shops along the 14th Street and Park Road frontages. In the quarter century it has lain vacant, the building has suffered from neglect, extensive vandalism, and severe water damage due to a leaking roof. This early conceptual rendering of the theater was obtained from the New York City Public Library.
The history of the Knickerbocker Theater, designed by Reginald Geare, and built during the First World War, is closely associated with that of the Tivoli. The owner of the Knickerbocker, theater magnate Harry M. Crandall, operated a chain of movie theaters in Washington. Geare was his primary Washington architect and, in addition to the Knickerbocker, had designed the Metropolitan in 1917 and the Lincoln in 1921. The Knickerbocker was located on the southwest corner of 18th Street and Columbia Road in Adams-Morgan, the present location of a SunTrust Bank.
In a brief 24-hour period spanning January 27–28, 1922, a massive storm dropped 26 inches of snow on the city, causing the fragile roof of the Knickerbocker to collapse. Few of the patrons who had filled the theater that evening for a screening of the comedy hit "Get Rich Quick Wallingford" escaped unharmed. In the heaped rubble of the auditorium, 98 people were found dead and 136 injured. Following the collapse of the Knickerbocker, Crandall released Geare as his primary architect, even though Geare had already begun work on a new theater in the fashionable neighborhood of Columbia Heights.
In his place, Crandall appointed the reputable young Thomas Lamb from New York as architect for all of his subsequent designs, including the Ambassador, built from the remains of the Knickerbocker, and the Tivoli. Lamb began designing the Tivoli less than six months after the Knickerbocker collapse. Incorporating a new understanding of structural integrity which followed in the wake of the disaster, Lamb designed the Tivoli as three separate bodies-stage, auditorium, and perimeter.
The earliest architectural drawings of the Tivoli are labeled Scheme A and date to June 15, 1922 at which point the theater did not have a name but was simply referred to as "Theater Building." Lamb’s original proposal features ornate, decorative detail throughout the exterior. There is far more stucco detail surrounding the numerous windows on the second floor of this original conceptual design.
The canopy and marquee from these Scheme A drawings also differ from what was eventually built. The artistic streetscape rendering at the beginning of this series of pages reflects this grand original concept. (These original architectural drawings were found in the archives of the Avery Library of Columbia University, New York City.)
Ornate Scheme A drawings were still being produced as late as December 11, 1922. However, by April 12, 1923, the date of the final architectural drawings, the theater building had been given the name Tivoli and the drawings had become simpler and streamlined, nevertheless still fully reflective of the Italian Renaissance style. The change in design was most likely due to constraints imposed by owner Harry M. Crandall, whose initial building cost estimate was $650,000.
On Monday December 4, 1923 construction commenced on the Tivoli, which became the ninth in the chain of Washington theaters owned by Crandall. Although the final building was less ornate than the original conceptual drawings, it still cost over $1 million when it was completed in 1924.
The cross-section of the exterior reveals the wooden brackets and tin soffits under the eaves of the tile roof, masterful detail easily overlooked given the current condition of the building. One of the grand old palaces of Washington, D.C., the Tivoli was almost saved by a group of local supporters during the 1970s.
History since 1976:
After over 25 years closure, the Tivoli has benefited from a revitalization of the Columbia Heights neighborhood. Now reopened as a small Hispanic stage theatre in the former balcony and mixed retail use in the rest of the building.
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